Sybil & Louis at Tunitas Creek: (Short Version) (Part I)

Dressed in ribbons and bows, Sybil Easterday was a precocious little girl who felt comfortable reciting poetry before audiences.

But as a young, eccentric sculptress at the turn of the century, she gained notoriety preferring the comfort of men’s trousers to the dainty frocks worn by her contemporaries.

Newspapers in New York City and San Francisco ran amusing pieces about the beautiful young woman from Tunitas Creek, south of Half Moon Bay. Sybil, a graduate of San Francisco’s Mark Hopkins School of Art, did not understand all the fuss.

She thought it quite natural to wear practical clothing while dipping her fingers into the tubs of wet, sticky plaster that she used to mold portrait busts.

As the sole female finalist in a competition to do a bust of President William McKinley for the City of San Jose, Sybil enhanced her reputation. She lost in the finals and took off for Mexico.

She thrived in Mexico’s artist colony, mailing smiling photographs of herself and new friends to her parents at Tunitas Creek. This may have been her happiest, most productive creative period.

Before the 1906 earthquake, she returned to the Coastside. But as time passed, Sybil painted and sculpted less and less. She enjoyed hosting large dinner parties and designed lovely, individually hand-printed menus for these affairs.

In late 1915, Sybil wed Louis Paulsen, a wealthy young bachelor from San Francisco. They probably met through the prominent Wienke family, who operated a resort hotel at Moss Beach–near the tracks of the Ocean Shore Railroad.

Sybil and her husband resided at the isolated Tunitas Creek home with Flora, her widowed mother.

Perhaps it was symbolic that Sybil’s life was interwined with the Ocean Shore Railroad, originally planned to extend as far as Santa Cruz. But the doomed Ocean Shore ran out of money and the tracks never got farther than Tunitas Creek, a few steps from the artist’s home. Passengers wishing to travel farther south climbed aboard a large touring car for the long, dusty trip to Santa Cruz.

…To Be Continued…

Photo: Courtesy San Mateo County History Museum. Visit the new gallerys at the San Mateo County History Museum at the historic Redwood City Courthouse in Redwood City.